It's not often the name 'Thom Yorke' is associated with contemporary dance. The Radiohead frontman performed a dance by Wayne McGregor with Random Dance's Fukiko Takase, in his new band Atom for Peace's recently released Ingenue. And I have to say, it's a fascinating watch.
Musicians who dance in their music videos are hardly a new phenomenon. Although I have always wondered how the puffer-jacket-wearing, spiky-haired boy bands of the 90s - and today's few equivalents - somehow end up total dance pros, choreographed to a T and all achieving perfect unison whilst no doubt miming in slow motion to their tracks. Just look at former contestant of ITV's The X Factor, JLS's Aston Merrygold - now a judge on hit Sky1 show, Got to Dance.
But of course, 99% of the time it's jazz or hip-hop or that commercial stuff. When you take a rock legend of sorts and direct him to duet with a trained dancer from one of the UK's best known contemporary dance companies, things get interesting. And Yorke's performance style is strangely engaging; raw, effortless, and totally him. Sometimes he moves absorbingly with eyes closed, just enjoying that free reign over the space. Sometimes he interacts with Takase, and in these movements, he does indeed give completely, surrendering his weight but not fussing so much about his focus. And Takase is the perfect partner, spiralling with swagger, beautifully androgynous in her suit. I digress.
What dawned on me in watching the work is how rarely contemporary dance meets current, popular contemporary music. Dancers and choreographers are not the subjects of gossip that they once were - musicians are. They are the familiar faces, the household names.
Thom Yorke is arguably one of the biggest musicians this country has ever seen. Through the growing awareness of his new band and his previous successes, we see a dance work which has raked up over one million Youtube hits in less than a week. For a piece of contemporary dance? Likely unheard of. Until now.
Could, then, musicians be a driving force in keeping the interest in contemporary dance alive?
P!nk is another chart-topper who left us dance students open-mouthed in her recent video for Try. The highly physical choreography by The Golden Boyz saw her running up walls, thrown onto a mattress and cartwheeling over her partner, Broadway performer Colt Prattes. The video now has over 61 million Youtube hits. (And, just to prove her capabilities, she and Prattes danced a version while she sang live at the American Music Awards. Not bad).
But do 'contemporary' choreographers really want to make dances for music videos? The dichotomy between that very commercial, highly exposed world and the quiet contemporary dance scene suggests not. Perhaps there is something alien about that level of fame; perhaps such choreographers just don't get asked. Those gigs are not the type on their CVs.
The logistics are tricky. But the statistics speak for themselves. All chart music is big. Contemporary dance is small. Not only small, but struggling - at least to communicate to those wider audiences. Maybe music can save us after all.